Filmmaker Joshua Morin on beauty, observation and memory
This guy is impressing the entirety of the MatTV crew. Recently highlighted as one of the “11 Travel Video Channels to Watch in 2011”, Joshua Morin is cranking out cinematic videos from his travels that leave me anxious for answers. After featuring a series last year of Joshua’s videos from Egypt, I went after some clarification to his artistic process on the road, because as a budding filmmaker, I know it’s this pursuit of insight from others that speeds up our self-taught development.
Joshua is one of the many laudable videographers that can be found on MatadorTV, and though he was kind enough to answer my questions, I’m sure he’s still open for dialogue with your video-lovin’ self.
From the looks of your Vimeo channel, you have a passion for documenting your travels in a very dynamic way. What inspires you to create, and why do you cover the topics you do?
I am not exactly sure what inspires me to create. I guess it has always been in me since I was young. I was a musician for a long time and played in a band and wrote songs. Since I gave up the late night bar tour scene, I guess I needed something to replace it, so video matched perfectly with my passion for traveling the world.
What elements of world cultures cause you to press the shutter or record buttons? Do you seek out those moments you record, or do your documentation efforts usually come second to your travel plans?
When I am travelling with my camera, I strive to capture scenes that I find beautiful. And the things that are beautiful to me tend to be of the places that are opposites from my average daily life. A vendor selling tarantula treats in Cambodia or an African desert that looks like nothing I have ever seen before cause me to whip out my camera and save the scene, so I can watch it again back home. For me, it’s all about seeing with my own eyes, so I guess I would say that documenting comes second to being there and experience it.
How long have you been interested in filming?
I met a friend while I was traveling in Africa a few years back who was documenting his travels abroad with a camcorder. When I saw the resulting video, I was shocked and inspired. This started my filming passion, and I have been working on it ever since.
Your videos tell me you’ve traveled to some places that can surely test a person (Egypt, Cambodia, Tanzania). Any lessons learned from the road you care to share, in regards to travel film or photography? What are some challenges you often encounter in filming?
I find that the biggest challenge is how to not draw attention while filming. I have been backpacking for a long time now and have been to more than a couple of dozen countries, some of them poorer than others. Lugging around expensive camera gear still makes me nervous. Taking a picture is quick. You can snap a photo in a matter of seconds, but filming a scene takes a minimum of 8 seconds record time. Sometimes those 8 seconds feel like an eternity.
I frequently watch other travelers filming and taking pictures, and I am in awe of how they can be so carefree about it. I wonder though if they don’t realize the repercussions of pulling out an expensive camera. You certainly have to be careful about it.
Do you conceptualize, film, and edit everything? Are you a one man show, or do you collaborate with others to create your final videos?
So far, I have been doing everything myself. It is a lot of work for the side projects that I work on – where audio and lighting come into play. I guess that is why I prefer to shoot travel videos, as I am capturing the moment, audio, lighting, and all. It may not always turn out perfectly, but that is okay!
Do you purely document real time moments, or do you like to recreate visuals, moments, or frame things just right for the story? What role does luck play in your documentation?
I have done both, but I think my passion lies in shooting in the moment. This means that the camera is frequently on; sometimes the footage turns out, and sometimes it doesn’t. Luck has a lot to do with it, but I also know things from shooting in the past that will help, like getting to a site before everyone else if I don’t want crowds in my footage or shooting at golden hours brings better footage.
What equipment do you use, and do you actively develop and expand your skills in any way?
Right now, I am shooting with a Panasonic GH1 camera. I have been using sliders and steadicams, but I travel light (with a backpack) and usually only bring a small tripod. I try to get better every video that I do. I am always reading articles and watching other videos to learn and advance.
Excellent strategy…as are we! What would be your ideal way of exhibiting or distributing your work? Are your videos completely personal and for your own fulfillment, or do you aim to show the world the stories you create?
When I wrote and performed music, my main goal was to get my songs out there. The beauty to me about my videos is that I am creating these videos for myself only. I want to progress, get better, and truly enjoy the feedback of others, but I just want to be able to look back someday on what I have made and remember the journeys that I took.
Do you have any advice for new filmmakers interested in seeing the world and documenting that which they see?
Buy a camera and shoot. It is the easiest way to learn and the only way to get better!
If filmmaking is simply a passion/hobby of yours, what do you do for a living?
I work as a computer software developer, and I also work on video projects on the side.
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